Freddie Ljungberg scored a brilliant goal and assisted on two others to lead Chicago to an unexpected 3-0 win at San Jose’s Buck Shaw Stadium last night.
While the game represented a chance for Chicago to keep its playoff hopes—best described as “slim,” or “mathematical”—alive, the more inviting opportunity, it seemed, was for the Earthquakes, playing at home, to bury the Fire with a win and take a big step closer to clinching a berth themselves.
The opening moments of the game reinforced this perception: San Jose had the bit between its teeth and dominated the Fire with crisp passing and sharper movement.
But when the Fire scored against the run of play, on a header by Elon University [!] alum Steven Kinney off a Ljungberg corner kick, the momentum shifted drastically. Like someone had hydraulically jacked up Chicago’s end of the field, tipping the play toward San Jose’s end.
In the 72nd minute, Ljungberg sliced through the San Jose D with a beautiful touch, then coolly finished with a chip into the far side-netting. Very classy goal.
The Fire completed the rout in stoppage time with a goal by Patrick Nyarko, assisted by Ljungberg and Brian McBride, who came on in the 90th minute.
What’s up with that, Chicago coach Carlos de los Cobos? You put McBride—U.S. Soccer icon, a man with a pub named after him at Fulham—into a 2-0 game in stoppage time?
McBride responded to the unusual decision by almost immediately setting up the third goal, springing Ljungberg on the byline to cross for Nyarko.
Chicago’s postseason hopes remain slim—they’re 10 points behind eighth-place San Jose with five games to play—but they’re not out yet.